Another Man’s Wife by Manjul Bajaj
Another Man’s Wife is a collection of nine stories with many different Indian cities and town as the backdrop. Each story touches an emotion, an equation in human relationships. And brings out situations that are usually hidden in the closets. At times the author changes the protagonists in the usual stories. And shows us an entirely different narrative of the stories that we read in newspapers every other day. Sometimes she takes us to the tribes and puts us in touch with their simple thoughts and lives. In few stories, she brings out fiercely independent women who on the surface look domesticated and dependent. In one story she takes you through a stale relationship that gets re-ignited through not talked about but not unusual means.
Manjul’s high point is her evocative narrative that lets you sail in the emotions of her characters. Her lyrical language soothingly takes you with the flow of the story. And never lets you be distracted. Her characters look familiar. You may have met them at the corner of some street, in some office or during some travel. She takes you through the nuances of their lives. By describing their surroundings and by imparting some knowledge about their professions. Look at the spectrum of areas she covers in mere 9 stories. From mango grower of Murshidabad, Kathak dancers, tribal families. Jazz musicians, Nepali servants, Delhi traders, Houseboat owners. Punjabi farmers, Journalists, Chikankari workers of Lucknow. High society women, Jharkhandi brides, urban couples, professors, Gujarati Seth’s.
Her language and sensitive portrayal are her biggest assets. Her narrative makes you understand the character. And there are really no black or white characters. As each of them is making their own journeys in life.
It is difficult to pick one favorite story. As in every story, I like something. But still Ripe Mangoes somehow stands out in my mind. I also liked the title story as it introduced me to the world of Vasawa Bhils. Especially the first part of the story that is like a fairy tale. Where these two lovers meet and unite in their traditional ways with the little rituals from their world. The second part has also been handled very sensitively without any dose of melodrama that these kinds of situations are prone to. The whole acceptance of the situation by the family and the need for survival is something that comes naturally when you are in that situation. And that is exactly how it is portrayed in the narrative.
I loved the place where the power equation between a captive and the captor are described. And how the captive gains power through holding back. In another story I liked her taking you back to the situation where a small little change in life like watching a film other than the one you intended to can lead you to situations that can change the equations between family members.
Two themes that come across are Equations in relationships and their ever changing nature. And how the small looking incidents can have a life changing impact. But then these could be a critic’s over analysis.
Read the stories of Another Man’s Wife, very Indian, very well-written, sensitive. And yet enjoyable…